Octopus CC v MAL - 9th June
The unseasonal warm and sunny summer weather that had been enjoyed by London during the week had dissipated by Sunday afternoon, as Octopus gathered at the home ground of St Aloysius to be greeted by what has become de rigueur cricketing weather the last few seasons: a bleak, grey and chilly afternoon. Not to be fazed, after rarely playing in summery weather over the past few seasons, the newly received and much needed resplendent jerseys from Bill were donned, as a strong looking line up faced up against Maccabi Association London, otherwise known as MAL, to attempt to arrest a three match losing streak for the Octopi.
With a batting order looking pleasantly strong, Will was instructed to win the toss in order to bat first, and although he defied the instructions and lost, the lads were happy to be inserted by the dreadlocked MAL captain - not least for the aforementioned batting strength, but also to make first use of what could only be described as astutely laid out minimal sized boundaries by the skipper. The openers Ed and Jo strode the crease, making a sartorially fine looking opening pair with the new caps from Bilal to face the MAL opening. Without much of a sighter at the bowling, both openers were quickly into their stride, Jo dispatching two pull shots dismissively for four, and Ed the first cover drive of many to take the score to 21 after 3 overs, before Jo unfortunately drove a ball straight to short cover and was caught, returning to the sideline to sit with his pads on for a good half hour ruing his bad luck on missing out on what was to unfold over the innings.
Pete joined Ed at the crease and the two embarked on laying the foundation for one of the Octopis' finest home displays of batting in a long while on home soil. With the pitch playing somewhat unusually nice and true, Ed unleashed a full array of strokes around the ground and to decimate the MAL attack. No region of the outfield was untouched on both sides of the wicket, with Ed in superlative touch, mixing some trademark deft late cuts with punishing square cuts, lancing cover drives to and over the boundary, lofted drives down the ground and flicks through midwicket - bringing up his 50 off 43 balls with 10 boundaries - as the team watched from the sideline thinking something special could be on the cards. With Pete playing an able supporting hand with a few lovely cover drives of his own, and excellent running between wickets interpersing the boundary fest, Octopus reached the drinks break with Ed on 90 and Pete on 18 and the score at an already imposing 149/1.
As Ed imbibed some much needed refreshments, Knowlsie as his wont proceeded to lay a classic mocker on the Octopus swordsman, mentioning his score of 90 - met with a curt "Don't tell me!", and the two returned to the crease, the team willing Ed onto his ton and thus sparing Knowlsie any wrath as he worried about his unintentional mockering from afar. As could be expected, there was a slight lull in the Webber onslaught as the hundred neared, though this had been taken further away from him at drinks, as Pete advised the scorer he had mistakenly given Webber one of his boundaries, to take him back to 86. Pete was caught at cover soon after the drinks break after a nicely compiled 27, the partnership for the second wicket amassing an impressive 134 in rapid time. A couple of half hearted appeals saw Ed in difficulty for the first and only time soon after Pete's departure, but he soon brought up a glorious century, his first in the Octopus colours, by launching a six over cover, to rapturous applause from the sideline.
With the milestone reached, freedom returned to the Webber stroke play, as he and Will continued the run fest, Will getting into boundary act with some well timed shots to the boundary, before feathering a nick behind to be out for 21. If MAL weren't already on their knees at 219/3 in the 30th over, they were soon to be well and truly flattened, as Gokul launched what can only be described as a one man wrecking ball assault on the bowling. After taking a customary dot ball to get his eye in, a checked drive flew straight over the bowler for six off the middle of the bat, a prelude for the next few overs. With the MAL captain bringing on a spinner as maybe a calculated way to stem the runs, Gokul made this look foolish as he deposited him over the boundary for 3 sixes in the over, to which the sideline began offering wages as to whether the tennis courts might be in danger. The quicker bowlers were shown no respite either, and three more colossal sixes were launched, and three fours, with Ben struggling to keep the Twitter feed up to date with the repetitious #gokulsix. A destructive half century was raised in 21 balls with the score thundering its way to 300 plus. With Ed a mere spectator throughout this, earning a well deserved break at the other end observing the carnage, Gokul was then miraculously caught on the long off boundary, as the fielder plucked an exocet missile out of the sky from above his head, a remarkable catch to end a breathtaking display of hitting, 58 runs from 25 balls, and a partnership of 61 for the 4th wicket in 5 overs, 280/4 and into the last five overs. This brought Knowlsie to the crease, however just one four through covers all to show for his day before being bowled. Felix joined Ed, and Ed continued his stellar knock, taking full toll of a wilting MAL attack, threading the ball continually to the boundary, before finally playing a false shot to be bowled in the 39th over for an unforgettable 154 off only 115 balls including 25 fours and 3 sixes, the score at 312/6 and leaving the field to a standing ovation from the team and the few MAL supporters alongside them, unquestionably one of the finest innings played for Octopus. Felix and Sam saw the innings through to the allotted 40 overs, with Octopus raising a record score on their home ground of 317/6, .
A Hodge-inspired tea, accompanied by cakes from Stu's wife Mel, including a cricket inspired chocolate Guinness cake complete with stumps design on the icing, was heartily enjoyed by a buzzing Octopus team, as they took to the field confident of a win. Reid and Knowlsie opened up, and quickly had both the openers back in the pavilion, Knowlsie inducing an edge to second slip that Hodge snaffled brilliantly at full stretch, and Reid having the other playing on to a short one, after finding good rhythm early on and troubling both batsmen. But the pitch was a good one, and after initially struggling at 9/2, the MAL batsman drove the ball well to counterattack to 64, before Gokul on at first change drew a slightly freak dismissal from the MAL captain, who kicked the ball onto his stumps to be bowled, not a stroke garnered from the MCC coaching manual he had recited throughout the course of the day so far, and the Octopus ears relished respite from the on field commentary.
Another decent partnership was built for MAL, again broken again by Gokul, with Jo taking a sharp catch at midwicket from a full blooded pull with the score at 98/4, then a more slightly worrying 58 run stand was built as the batsman took advantage of the good pitch and short boundaries to advance the score to 156, the 318 target never really under threat with 10 needed per over, but a wicket was needed to just settle the team. Ingram delivered, when the key batsman, who had wogged his way to 54 miscued a drive that flew high and wide to long on, where Graham steadied himself and pouched the steepling catch, much to the Octopi delight who knew victory was a mere formality now, the score 156/5. But they didn't count on the innings being wrapped up in the way it was, as Marsh proceeded to weave a spell over the MAL tail and ripped through the line up. First spinning one past the batsman to clip off stump, then soon after taking three wickets in an over, Pete grabbing a great catch at cover from a mistimed drive, then in consecutive deliveries Webber holding onto a full toss smashed to the midwicket boundary and the next batsman bamboozled for a golden to bring a hat trick chance - sadly the ball slipping down leg side for a wide - but MAL slumping to 168/9 and the end nigh. A five wicket bag was on the cards, and only brief resistance from the bottom two staved off the inevitable, as Marsh tempted the no. 11 from his crease and Ben swiftly had the bails off for a consummate stumping. MAL all out for 180, a brilliant win by 137 runs to the Octopus, Marsh finishing with his best bowling for Octopus, a sensational 5-19 off 6 overs.
So a comprehensive performance by the team, excelling brilliantly in all three disciplines, the stunning batting performance complemented by a fine bowling effort supported by five outstanding catches in the outfield. The three match losing streak arrested, and a match to etch its mark in Octopus folklore. Congratulations Ed, for a majestic 154, an innings to be remembered, and Graham, for a well deserved first five wicket haul for the club, and Will for skippering the team extremely well, and marking out the boundaries. Onto next Sunday, away vs Judd St Tigers, with the team hoping to carry over the form for another win.
Octopus CC v Leyton Orient Supporters XI - 12th May
Sunday started with the same travel confusion as most with TFL closing a majority of lines linking Highgate to the rest of London. The newly engaged Pete who showed complete commitment to the OCC cause when he took a train going in the wrong direction to Croydon before switching lines and heading back North while a very confused Ed was left bamboozled by engineering works only for us to luckily spot him on the side of the road having made a new friend.
Once the full contingent had arrived Hodge won the toss and to jeers and moans from those on boundary chose to field first on a pitch that with impending rain looked spongy and sticky.
Reid recovering from a Guinness soaked day at the rugby 7's dressed as elephant took the new ball and to the surprise of his teammates failed to provide his statutory 4 wide's off the first ball. In fact he produced 6 well pitched teasing deliveries that left the batsmen guessing. So far so good!
Octopus welcoming back former skipper turned Babymaker Ogilvie demanded to open the bowling from the other end, guilt tripping his skipper with lines of "I may not play again this year... my wife beats me!" Ogilvie was immediately on the money leaving the openers swinging at air, it was during his second over Ogilvie managed to get one to shape away from the frustrated Mulholland who nicked to Hodge behind stumps. This was proper cricket and it continued in this vein with Reid bowling fast and furiously until Humphrey's attempting a cut edged behind to Hodge.
The first bowling change saw the introduction of Pinks who produced a fine display of swing bowling to remove firstly Hamerger and then Patel, both deliveries pitching on middle and swinging back in toppling leg stump, the jubilant Octopus couldn't believe their eyes as the score board now read 38/4 and it could have been more had an LBW decision not been overturned by Pete at mid-off who noticed that Rich clipped the stumps on his follow through and under new ICC laws is now regarded as a dead ball.
As Pinks was flourishing at one end Hindle started what will be regarded as his best spell of bowling in his Octopus career to date (That I can remember anyway) 8 overs of deadly accurate wicket to wicket bowling left the basement seething with frustration with their skipper trying to push the scoreboard on and failing to get hold of the ball sending it high to a yelling Ogilvie. 2 more scalps left Hindle with outrageous figures of 8/2/14/3.
Tindle didn't waste time joining in the destruction with 6 overs of clinical, ruthless bowling and from his 6 overs managed to concede only 3 runs whilst sending two of their batsmen back to the shed with fast full deliveries. Ogilvie wrapped things up with what was probably the worst ball of the day, short and wide and with the batsmen's playing an ugly heave only for the ball to be plucked out of the air one handed by the wounded Murthy.
With Orient setting a total of just 78 Octopus left the field in high spirits, this was not just a clinical and accurate bowling display it was a fantastic effort in the field, everyone contributing, with no dropped catches and some fine fielding.
With the rain starting to get heavier we decided to go straight into the 2nd innings Pandya-Smith and Webber opening up with the clear intention of knocking of the runs before the match was rained off.
Webber set the tone with a beautifully crafted drive through extra cover for 4 before reverting back to his favoured late cut to put the visitors under pressure. Joe fell to an aggressive ball from Auton which was caught well at slip for 5 this brought the Love Machine Hayward out sporting a new confident swagger of a man in love. Webber continued to attack in the rich vein of form that has seen him start the season with the shot of the day a stunning lofted drive back over the bowlers head for 6. Hayward played his part in supporting his partner before he was struck low on the pad to one nipping in. There was little Hodge could do but give him out.
Ogilvie came in at number 4 having moaned about his lack of cricket in 2013 and to much amusement of his fellow team mates the Babymaker lasted just the one ball bowled off his pads as he attempted to play across the line.
Normal service resumed when Murthy made his way to the middle and with our two most prolific batsmen of the season so far combining to destroy the weary attack with some clean hitting and when Webber made way with the scores on 66-4 the hard work was all but done, another impressive display by the hair fading vice-captain totalling 38 runs of 30 balls.
Hodge rushed to the middle with little on his mind other than finishing this before he or his prised bat got too wet and after swinging hard at one down the leg side, missing and failing to get back in his ground before being athletically stumped by a wicket keeper who until this point had shown all the agility and grace of hippo. Where Hodge failed Pinks succeeded combining with a confident Gokul to win the game in commanding fashion.
A jubilant Octopus celebrated a fanatic victory in tricky conditions and with the realisation that cricket is just that bit better when you win.!
Man of the match was given to Hindle for a belting performance with the ball, on to the next one and after Mondays LMS victory let's keep this run going..
Bohemians v Octopus CC - 28th April
The majority of the Octopus eleven turned up keen and eager having had a decent warm up on the Saturday, albeit with varying degrees of success in actually finding the ground. Making his debut as the clubs official skipper Hodge decided it was an ideal day to bowl first, having judged the pitch would only deteriorate and the day would only get colder. It had nothing to do with Arsenal v Man Utd kicking off at 4pm.
A quick look at the pitch made a 'slightly' hung-over Reid declare he'd get "plenty of wickets today". This led Hodge to entrust him with the opening over. Exuberating with confidence and truly believing in his earlier statement Reid, having told Tindle to move from fine leg to Third man, ran up to bowl the first ball of the day, which promptly went for four, very wide, wides through fine leg and the rest of his first over followed in much the same vein.
Despite Tindle's best efforts to offset the run fest going on at the other end with some tight bowling, the first 10 or so overs proved to be fairly expensive for Octopus with the opposition motoring on and soon enough the opening batsmen had notched up a 110 run partnership. Gokul had had enough and after some good tight bowling and having seen a few catches dropped, including a valiant effort from Hindle to stop a boundary using his top lip, he took an excellent c&b. It was not long after that he also took the wicket of the key man, bowling him middle stump and sending the batsmen back to the pavilion on 63. These breakthroughs from Gokul as well as an excellent 7 overs from Knowles which saw him go for only 23 runs, meant we had stopped the Bohemian ascendancy This was only helped by Hindle, now fully recovered but sporting a fat lip that would make Lesley Ash envious, deciding he wanted in on the action taking two excellent wickets, one lbw and the other a fine catch on the boundary from Tindle. Good bowling from Webber and Try helped to keep the run rate down, despite the best efforts of their middle order sloggers trying to tee off. Tindle came on for the final over of the innings and was unlucky to find that their middle order sloggers now finally had their eye in and managed to squeeze 21 off the over leaving Octopus chasing a target of 218 to win.
Octopus went in to bat needing just over a run a ball to win, and got off to a solid start with Hayward and Webber at the crease both of whom playing some lovely shots to push Octopus onto 44. It was at this point Webber decided to try something he hadn't tried before, and went for a deft cut through gully. Sadly it carried to the fielder and Webber found himself on his way back to the boundary for 17, bringing Knowles to the crease. It was not long until Octopus suffered another blow as Hayward also sent the ball skywards towards gully and was not far behind Webber, bringing Hodge to the crease. At 47-2 Octopus were looking at a long hard slog to win the game but a good solid partnership of 44 from Knowles and Hodge steadied the ship until Knowles was caught well at first slip on 14.
The required run rate was now somewhere near 9 an over, Octopus however refused to give up and with Hodge and Murthy at the crease motored on well. It was not long before they were each taking in turns to send the ball flying towards the boundary caring not if it bounced before or after. Both batsmen were in fine form making good tight bowling look rather ordinary, with both sending sixes back to cow corner with what seemed like the minimal of fuss. The required run rate at this stage had fallen to well within reach and both smelt the whiff of victory. A fine 84 run partnership was ended when Hodge played an excellent drive straight back over the bowlers head which saw it drop marginally short into long offs grateful hands. The skipper returned back to the pavilion having notched up 65 runs of 67 balls. In came Reid, letting Murthy know he was more than happy to hand him the strike with a few cheeky singles in order to let Murthy's onslaught of the Bohemian bowlers continue, to his horror he was made to run a three shortly after and a very unfit Reid realised the importance of the situation he was in. Just as it was going so well and Murthy was powering on he was caught at cover trying to steal a single to keep the strike off the last ball. He went back to the adoring crowd having notched up 56 runs in only 34 balls.
This left Reid and Tindle needing 26 runs off the last three overs. They took the first in their stride taking seven off it with good running. Sadly for Reid, this did mean running another three. With 19 required off the final 12 balls Reid had decide he had had enough of running and looked to return to his old faithful, slogging. A six to cow corner soon followed, with three more singles. Leaving Octopus needing 10 runs with 6 balls in hand. A fine flash at the first ball of the final over from Reid saw it run down to fine leg for four. 6 off 5 was needed. The more well placed shots from Tindle meant more runs and we found ourselves needing 2 off 3, Reid on strike sensing victory was swiftly bowled by a yorker whilst trying to heave the ball out of the park, he departed for 19 from 14. In came Russell, with 2 balls remaining and two runs for victory needed. The Bohemian bowler ran in and bowled, it hit Russell on the pad but was quite clearly going down leg. Nevertheless the oppo appealed forgetting the need to field the ball which had travelled five meters towards point. Cunning running from Russell and Tindle saw them take the first quickly, an overthrow from the fielder then saw them take the second to give Octopus a hard fought and well-earned victory that had at one stage seemed improbable.